Speed and trajectories in the South Atlantic
At the 14:00 GMT ranking, Sébastien Josse was lying in third place, some 83 miles shy of leader Alex Thomson and just 0.10 miles astern of Armel Le Cléac’h! In the past 24 hours, the Mono60 Edmond de Rothschild has passed PRB, which dropped to fourth place this morning, and has made up twenty miles or so on Banque Populaire VIII. The latter and Gitana 16 are now equidistant from the leader, albeit with a lateral separation of around a hundred miles. In a sweltering heat offshore of Brazil, negotiating relatively short seas, the competitors at the head of the fleet are making headway on a beam reach in a SE’ly tradewind that is currently shifting round to the East before settling into position to the North-East. In these conditions, the foilers are really smoking and Vincent Riou, who is the only skipper to have a non-foiling boat in the top four, is now losing a bit of ground. In their line of sight, the solo sailors are observing the evolution of a growing depression off Rio, which could be their high-speed ride down to the Roaring Forties.

Yesterday, Edmond de Rothschild was dropping southwards a little more luffed up (sailing closer to the wind) than its rivals, who were making headway with slightly more eased sheets: “My focus was above all on making southing and not pushing too hard on the helm, because I couldn’t see the advantage of that option for my boat. However, Alex (Thomson) and Armel (Le Cléac’h) had a slight edge so the trajectories were certainly more fluid for them,” explained Sébastien Josse, contacted by Race HQ for the Vendée Globe in Paris around midday.

On paper, slipping along in the sunshine in a manageable trade wind should be very enjoyable. However, with the speed and the foil in action, living conditions aboard are no picnic. “It feels great to be making good speed again and to have the support of the foil once more. One would think that it’s comfortable, because we’re in the trade winds with 18 knots of breeze, yet I’d go so far as to say that it’s hard to get around the boat. In up to 15-16 knots it’s fine, but the second the boats exceed an average of 17-18 knots, it’s just unbearable! It’s noisy, you get shaken about and above all it’s incredibly wet. I tried to get some sleep earlier but it was slamming so much that I’ll have to sleep later on!”

Loud and clear

Despite the fatigue of these first eleven days of racing, which everyone has raced at a hellish pace, the skipper of the five-arrow racing stable was speaking in a particularly clear voice. “Sébastien has a really clear voice. If I was a rival, I’d take that as a sign of danger,” said this Thursday’s guest at the “Vendée Live” broadcast, Sidney Gavignet. The sailor knows Sébastien Josse well. Indeed, the two men were rivals in the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-2009 (crewed round the world race with stopovers) and then on trimarans in the Multi70 circuit. In fact, we recall the great mano à mano in the Transat Jacques Vabre 2013, which ultimately turned to the advantage of the Josse-Caudrelier pairing, in the colours of Gitana Team. Indeed, these multihull experts agree that though sailing offshore in a trimaran is more stressful, these latest generation monohulls are a lot more testing on a physical level.

Gitana 16 , only a few sores to lament

Since the start, the mild sailing conditions have enabled the sailors to set an impressive pace in this race. However, this forecast has naturally spared the boats pretty well so they haven’t yet had to endure a strong gale. “I stupidly broke two stanchions on the first night out and, later on, I had a slight keel issue with regards the electrics, which has since been sorted. Otherwise, everything’s perfect. It has to be said that we haven’t had any crazy conditions, which have put wear and tear on the boats,” explained Sébastien. “Right now though, in these fast points of sail in the trade wind, we’re flying masthead foresails. This is where the boat is under the greatest load and so we’re putting particular stress on the rigs so you have to be careful.”

The face of the race will soon change

A backdrop for this twelfth day of the Vendée Globe is the negotiation of the Saint Helena High. In principle, there is little risk of falling into its calm zones. Quite the contrary even, given that a low is forming level with Rio that could well change the atmosphere later this week. “Since the start, we’ve been sailing with very tight trajectories. We didn’t exit Biscay with massive conditions and we’ve put in one reef in since Les Sables d’Olonne. We’re on a transatlantic pace. Inevitably, nobody wants to ease off, but the manner in which we’re sailing will soon change,” Sébastien reckons. “The first big depression in the thirties (30 degrees South) will likely calm our zeal a little and make us switch to a rhythm that is more worthy of a round the world.”

[Deciphering]: how do the rankings for the Vendée Globe work?

Every day, there are six official rankings issued at 4, 8, 11, 14, 17 and 21:00 GMT. At night, we have a black-out, which is a period during which the boats remain positioned on the chart but with no updates on their progress in relation to one another; a little device to drum up a bit of suspense. But how do you successfully rank a fleet of twenty-nine boats, which are not heading in a straight line and are not on a flat surface and above all, in relation to a finish port – Les Sables d’Olonne – which is currently in their wake rather than ahead of them? Antoine Koch, a member of Gitana Team, explains all: “In fact, calculating a ranking in a round the world race is far from simple. The organisers position intermediary points along the course, ahead of the fleet, which enable a calculation of distance to be made in relation to this waypoint. However, as we’re seeing on the current rankings, referring to a geographical distance has less appeal than a position made in relation to the weather. The competitors are not seeking the shortest route from A to B, rather the fastest route, taking into account the weather.”

Today’s figures

At 14:00 GMT, Edmond de Rothschild was lying in 3rd position
Some 83 miles behind the leader Alex Thomson
Distance covered over the past 24 hours: 427.6 miles at an average speed of 17.8 knots
Distance covered over the ground since the start: 3,948.66 miles at an average speed of 14.9 knots

Ranking on 17 November at 14:00 GMT

1. Alex Thomson (Hugo Boss) 20,890.8 miles from the finish
2. Armel Le Cleac'h (Banque Populaire VIII) 82.9 miles behind the leader
3. Sébastien Josse (Edmond de Rothschild) 83 miles back
4. Vincent Riou (PRB) 107.8 miles back
5. Paul Meilhat (SMA) 164.2 miles back
6. Morgan Lagravière (Safran) 194.7 miles back
7. Jérémie Beyou (Maître CoQ) 248.8 miles back
8. Yann Eliès (Queguiner Leucémie Espoir) 389.2 miles back
9. Jean Le Cam (Finistère Mer Vent) 519.9 miles back
10. Jean-Pierre Dick (St Michel-Virbac) 575.1 miles back

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